Court Case Number: 5:09-cv-03965-HRL
File Date: Thursday, August 27, 2009
Plaintiff: Electronic Arts, Inc.
Defendant: Dillinger, LLC
Cause: Trademark Infringement
Video game mega-company Electronic Arts filed suit last week in the US District Court of Northern California against Indiana-based Dillinger, LLC, over the in-game use of a pair of weapons bearing the famed criminal’s moniker. Specifically, the firearms in question are the “Dillinger Tommy Gun” found in The Godfather and the “Modern Dillinger” available in The Godfather II.
EA is seeking a declaratory judgment that its use of John Dillinger’s name does not violate Dillinger’s rights. The complaint alleges that on July 22 (exactly 75 years after the bank robber was gunned down by the FBI in Chicago, mind you) Dillinger contacted EA threatening legal action if the publisher did not agree to pay “millions of dollars for the game elements purportedly covered by its publicity rights and trademarks.”
Dillinger’s claim stems from Indiana’s Right of Publicity statute that protects against unauthorized commercial use of a person’s personality for 100 years after his or her death. EA, on the other hand, contends that its use of Dillinger’s name in The Godfather games is protected under the First Amendment, and it does not violate any claimed rights of publicity or trademarks held by Dillinger, LLC.
With a recent Dillinger movie starring Johnny Depp, it’s no shock that Dillinger, LLC would be looking to shore up it’s IP portfolio. Whether EA’s alleged infringement justifies a demand of “millions of dollars” is questionable. I doubt Dillinger expected EA to settle for anything near that amount. Maybe Dillinger’s legal team has just been looking for a good opportunity to test the limits of Indiana’s Right of Publicity law. The same legal team represents the estates of several prominent deceased celebrities, so the outcome here could have important repercussions in other matters.
Either way, the Indiana Intellectual Property & Technology Blog will keep you updated.